My friend Fred works for the Mountain Lion Foundation. Can't have a foundation without mountain lions so we must be doing something right here in California.
Fred's official title has to do with legal and technical but he does a bit more than that: like advising and instructing ranch owners and many more with some land and animals that need protecting on how to construct and fence to prevent mountain lions from getting at a buffet of farm animals or fancy ones like llamas or alpacas in the Santa Monica mountains or the mountains of Santa Cruz or the hills outside of San Diego.
Fred estimates that there are perhaps 3000 mountain lioins in California. Not bad for a civilization that doesn't care much for any predators.
Fred and his family will be with me in Yellowstone National Park. You know, wolves and all the outside-the-park commotion they cause.
Today Fred is on his way to Hopland, California for a demonstration on how to construct a proper fence pen defense against a mountain lion. I will accompany him.
Accompanying up I-5 north, farm fields, burnt gold California, Sutter buttes off in the haze, sacred mountains above these fruited plains and on through the whole foods to Williams for a belt-busting breakfast in a farm town right out of a Steinbeck paragraph, headed now towards Clearlake, leaving the valley floor and starting to twist on up away from the orchards and vines into the Merlin Woods, two lanes through the almost arbors of California oaks hung with moss, here and there a distant downhill glimpse of Clearlake. Hot.
Silence, very big time. Good old country comforts, red and gray barns, hay bales, horses, local turns, Mendocino County, a wooden sign for University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources. News to me and to you, I am thinking.
This is where Fred will construct his demonstration pen.
Now this Ag and Natural Resources is a magic place, hidden from view, hidden from anyone I've ever known knowing anything about it, tucked away in a Sherwood Forest like a real-life Camelot Faire where the Ag and the rest of the natural world come to know more, to appreciate, to develop, to render a helping hand, research and develop a better world, small unassuming houses scattered here and there.
Mountain lions on their agenda, thus the demonstration of the mountain lion protection for both the domesticated and the wild ones. We don't want any mountain lions being shot for being mountain lions.
Kimberly A. Rodrigues, Ph.D., Director of the Center, is there to greet us, all enthusiastic and all pride in her position, profession and the possibilities for the earth. She took part in the "timber wars" up this way in the 90s so all the old-growth forests didn't end up in the "tree museum." Also, Veronica, nature biologist, mountain lions, part of the Mountain Lion Foundation, here to assist in the chain link, horse wire, tarp over the horse wire enclosure. I and she worked in Yellowstone. Let the bond begin.
Construction begins on a flat piece of ground in the shade just outside the grand wooden meeting hall of native woods and dark native color, sheet metal roof, a Viking hall by John Muir.
I am all thumb stubs so I stay out of the way as the simple wire structure of screws and bolts and nuts takes shape, basically a box.
Another nature biologist joins us. She used to work in Yellowstone. I've lived and gone to another heaven.
Everyone here knows the AVA, almost neighbors. I tell them I am writing a piece on today for submission. Good pride all around.
The current demons of Trump’s EPA and Interior Department seem far distant from this outpost of doing the "right stuff" for all of us.
The two person crew work continues on and as I dawdle in the shade, holding the lantern and the pen while others chop the wood.
Then voila! A completed pen, like an open wired tuff shed in your own backyard if you happen to have animals you'd like to keep out of the jaws of a mountain lion, not to be the bogeyman but give the gorgeous predator its props.
Tomorrow the groups will arrive to study this aspect of the land and the wild.
Tomorrow I will be on my way to Yellowstone across Nevada and Fred with his family will be there next week for me to show around.
Around four in the afternoon now and a breeze through the trees has come up. And the enclosure is up, bare as can be but the best things in life continue to be our relation to the birds and the bees and the trees and the land and the beasts of the forest and the fields.